New warning system aims to reduce truck-bridge collisions

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Westborough – In the latest effort to address the ongoing problem of large trucks attempting to pass under the low railroad bridge on Route 30, Westborough's Board of Selectmen voted at their meeting May 27 to award a $35,000 contract to erect a new warning system.

The new system will use pole-mounted lasers on either side of the roadway set at the height of the bridge. When a truck that would not make it under the bridge breaks the beam of light, flashing warning signs will activate.

The system will be placed far enough away from the bridge so that trucks would still have time to turn off Route 30.

Town Manager Jim Malloy said the system will not cost taxpayers any money, with mitigation funds the town negotiated with CSX Corp., the owner of the bridge, when it built its new $20 million bulk transfer facility on Walkup Drive, which opened in 2012, funding the work.

Malloy said $150,000 in mitigation funds were earmarked for the system and that the town would look at ways to redeploy the leftover monies in the future. Work on a traffic light at Flanders Road and Route 30 is one potential landing spot for the funds.

Police Chief Alan Gordon recently said that trucks have struck the bridge about 10 times over the past five years.

However, even more frequently, a large truck ties up traffic by approaching the bridge only to realize after the last turnoff that it will not clear the underpass. Gordon has also said that GPS software programs sending tractor trailers down Route 30 are a factor in the problem.

The new system isn’t the first time CSX funds have gone to try to address the problem. In 2008, CSX Corp. agreed to pay $12,000 for additional signage warning of the impending low bridge, including cautions in French aimed at Canadian truck drivers.

Shrewsbury-based Central Mass Signal was awarded the contract for the system, which will be powered by solar-charged batteries.

“Let's hope it works,” said Selectman Ian Johnson.